Author Spotlight: Alyssa Milano


Photo credit: © Dirk Franke

Actress, activist and author Alyssa Milano is hoping to inspire kids to find their own voice through her new middle grade series, Hope. Illustrated by The Simpsons illustrator Eric S. Keyes, the first book in the series, Project Middle School (Scholastic, October 2019), introduces readers to Hope Roberts, a spunky 11-year-old girl who seeks to create positive social change while surviving middle school at the same time. In our August issue of Growing Minds, we interviewed Milano about her new series.


How did Hope come to be? Where does she come from?

Part of the inspiration was my own kids — I see how good they are, and how curious about the world, and how they want to help people. So I wanted to write about a character who was motivated to help and do good. But I also really wanted to make sure Hope resonates with kids, that she’s someone they can relate to. Hope Roberts is bright and smart and funny and wants to change the world, but she also makes mistakes … she’s not perfect. She gets mad at her older sister and she has disagreements with her best friend, just like every sixth grader does. This idea came to me in late 2017–early 2018, partly because of the difficult times we’re living through. There’s a lot of intolerance and indifference in the world. I wanted to give kids a character they could relate to, someone who might inspire them to find their own voice and teach them how to use it.

Share some of your creative process. How did you, your co-author and the illustrator work together when creating the book?

Well, when we started out there was so much we wanted to pack into the first story. But when my co-author, Debbie Rigaud, and I began writing, we realized we had to scale back a bit and save some of our ideas for future books. We also realized humor had to be a big part of the story, and that’s one of our favorite things about the way Hope has developed. She’s very funny and she finds herself in these silly, relatable situations. Those were really fun to write about, and for Eric to illustrate. Working with Eric has been amazing. We make suggestions to him about which moments we want to highlight in each chapter, and then when he shows us his illustrations, we’re blown away by the feeling he brings out in these characters. He really captures their warmth and depth and brings it to the next level.

What would you like readers to be thinking about after they read the book?

This first book is really about Hope finding the courage to share her ideas, to find her voice and believe in herself. I hope that readers come away feeling inspired and energized about speaking up and speaking out.


Why write for the middle grade students? What attracts you to this audience?

Kids at this age level are like sponges, soaking up everything in the world around them. They are growing up and learning about the world around them — and discovering that they can have a voice in their communities. And that’s what I want Hope to do — to send them a message that they can make a difference the way that she does.

What would you like readers to be thinking about after they finish the book?

Well, kids are the future! They’re born into a world where they’re often taught their voices don’t count for anything, that the damage has already been done by the grown-ups. Pete’s whole mission was to teach everyone, young and old, that they have a voice, that they have power and authority and can harness that for the good of humanity. The earlier kids are introduced to this, the better! My greatest dream would be that this book is a kid’s first introduction to the power of organization and fighting for beliefs; that this book would somehow be a building block in creating a kid who would follow in Pete Seeger’s very esteemed footsteps.

Interviewed by Kerry Singe
Interview originally appeared in Growing Mind’s August issue.

View the latest issue of Growing Minds for more interviews with esteemed authors.


Exclusive Discussion with Documentarian Ken Burns This Friday!

kenburnsThis Friday, Baker & Taylor will be hosting a live webinar with documentarian Ken Burns just days before his poignant documentary series, The Vietnam War, airs on Sunday, Sept. 17 at 8 p.m. Tune in from 12 to 12:30 p.m. to hear this exclusive discussion with Burns, in partnership with PBS.

Over 10 years in the making, this 10-part, 18-hour documentary series tells the epic story of one of the most consequential, divisive and controversial events in American history as it has never before been told on film.

Visceral and immersive, the series explores the human dimensions of the war through revelatory testimony of nearly 80 witnesses from all sides.

Burns has spent nearly 40 years making films, producing some of the most accomplished historical documentaries of our time. From the Academy Award nominated Brooklyn Bridge in 1981 to the landmark television series The Civil War, Ken’s films have won 15 Emmy Awards and received two Oscar nominations. Burns has been the recipient of almost 30 honorary degrees and in September of 2008 he was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. Over the years, each film he has created has asked one deceptively simple question, “Who are we Americans as a people?” His films look at more than just individual subject matter; they drive audiences to go further into themes that are central to who we are as a nation and as individuals.

Moderated by Stephanie Prange, the editor in chief of Home Media Magazine, this webinar is a can’t miss event.


Exclusive Discuss with Documentarian Ken Burns


Friday, September 15, 2017 from 12:00 to 12:30 p.m.


Register here for more details.

Get your first look at The Vietnam War trailer:


Our Picks: Books, Movies, Music & More

It’s no shocker we love books at Baker & Taylor. But beyond books, there’s no denying that, now and again, we also love binge-watching our favorite television show or singing along with our favorite band. We’re not just a bookseller after all. From books to movies to music, here are some of our current picks…


Reading with Patrick | Michelle Kuo
The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane | Lisa See
I have two favorites from the last couple of weeks: Reading with Patrick, the incredibly moving true story of a young Chinese-American teacher and her life changing work with an African-American teenager coming of age in the poorest county in Arkansas; and The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane, a novel of the enduring connection between mothers and daughters set alternately in California and a remote province of China. — David Cully, President

The Handmaid’s Tale | Margaret Atwood
I love this book! I read it around 25 years ago and again 15 years ago. It’s always been one of my favorite books. I decided to read it again since the adaptation is out on Hulu. — Josie Wrucke, Relationship Manager, Digital Customer Management

Kasher in the Rye | by Moshe Kasher
Rachel Rupert, Junior Designer

Ill Will | by Dan Chaon
It’s an fractal adventure into how many individual memories are needed to piece together the full story. Reality and fantasy get mixed up and sometimes mirror the other. I can only read it in the daylight :-).  — Katie Moore, eMarketing Specialist

Music, Movies and TV:signsoflight

Relaxer | Alt-J
Signs of Light | The Head and the Heart
Waiting for Alt-J’s newest album, Relaxer, to be released has been tortuous—ironically, not relaxing at all. Both singles are great, but while I wait for the album’s release in early June, I’ve been listening to the latest The Head and the Heart album on vinyl. — Emma Way, eMarketing Specialist

— Julie Walker, Marketing Specialist

Humanz | Gorillaz
In true Gorillaz fashion, the album is an eclectic mix of artists, sounds and genres that I think long-time fans will enjoy. Favorite tracks are “Ascension,” “Andromeda” and “Carnival.” — Brad Richmond, Marketing Analyst

As an avid Alabama fan (Roll tide!) and a native of Alabama, this movie is a home-run for me. — Ashley Dixon, Event Specialist

What are you favorites right now? We want to know! Comment below.